One of the first writers I got to know through blogging is Jon Mayhew.  He was writing his first novel when I started blogging and he seemed like a nice guy.  Plus I felt like we bonded a bit over a mutual interest in running, although his interest far out-stripped mine.  And talking of out-stripping, Jon has now become a true star in the publishing firmament with his Bloomsbury-published young adult novel, Mortlock.  Even though I thought my days of reading “kids” books were long over, of course I read it as soon as it came out.  I was so excited for him.  And within a few pages I was excited for me and Jon’s characters, as well.  What would happen?  How much danger were Alfie and Josie in?  Would I be able to get to sleep?  Mortlock is a wonderful book, and so I’ve taken advantage of Jon’s nice-guyness to ask him a bunch of questions about writing this sort of book —  something that I assumed was (wrongly, now I think) quite different from the sort of writing I do myself:
I have never written anything for a young audience and so, while reading, I couldn’t help but wonder if you always had the age of your intended reader in mind while writing? Does that affect your prose style? The structure of the text? 
I just read the story that was in my head really. I didn’t consciously think of a child reading the book. Things like description had to be cut and tailored. Too much description or explanation slows the pace of the book and I wanted it to roll along at a fair old lick really. In terms of word choice, I didn’t worry too much, children are quite capable of using a dictionary. 
I know you are a teacher, and there were small moments in the story that felt very “teacherly” to me, ie little bits of information thrown here and there. Am I correct about this? Do you feel as if the teacher in you was also there while writing? In other words, could you not help but want to occasionally throw in a teaching moment in your text or were your two personae separate? 
I wasn’t aware of ‘teaching’ and hope it doesn’t get in the way of a good story! I think some points just amused or appealed to me and would to children too. The idea that London was congested with traffic in the 1850s struck me as pertinent and would chime with children commuting to school through busy towns everywhere. Likewise the more gruesome details of embalming might catch the imagination. 
There is some seriously gross and scary stuff in “Mortlock.”  Did you ever wonder whether you should be tailoring your story to make it more or less frightening, given your presumed audience? 
It isn’t that gross, honest! Well, okay it is a bit but I tried to keep the horror pretty ‘comic book.’ If you read the likes of Darren Shan, you’ll see that actually I was quite restrained! 
My son happened to pass my bedroom the other day and came downstairs and asked “Hey, how come you have a kid’s book on your nightstand?” When I asked how he knew it was a “kid’s book,” he laughed and mentioned the black edges of the paper and the cover.  Can you tell a book by it’s cover? What was the design process involved in publishing the book and did you have much say in it? 
It’s curious really, the original cover clearly identified it as a book for a much younger audience. I’d mentioned to my editor about maybe having some Amarant red in it but they were worried that where the red faded, it would look pink, not very gothic or scary at all! The black edging was something I’d asked for and Bloomsbury had thought of too so there was a nice piece of synchronicity there. In terms of the design process, I consider myself lucky to have had any input at all, many authors say they don’t have any. Interestingly, with the advent of the e-book, I do think that conventional books are going to change and already are morphing into objects that you might like to have either because of their design, or edgings and end papers. We have books in hard plastic covers, relaunched covers all kinds of things. And don’t think this is just confined to children’s literature. In terms of black edging, I would refer you to ‘The Book of Human Skin’ by Michelle Lovric an adult title by Bloomsbury. 
I know you’re now writing your third novel!! Dare I ask — are they continuations of stories about Josie and Alfie, or must we bid them a fond adieu and look forward to new characters?
No, Alfie and Josie’s story is told but the other two books are set around the same time and world with some crossover characters so there’s lots more Victorian gothic chills on the way. The next book is called The Demon Collector and is set in the Royal Society of Daemonology. Expect demons, expect gore, expect trouble with a capital T!

It just remains for me to thank you Sue for your support over the years. You’ve followed my blog and I’ve watched your titles spring to life. It’s great to have such great blog buddies!

And thank you, Jon! Now, here’s the competition…win a free book, direct from the good people at Bloomsbury – well, via me.  Be the first to post a comment here, and the book is yours.  Be forewarned, as Jon has told us right there on his cover, “Death Is Not The End…”